One In Four Londoners Drove Drunk This Year

More than a quarter of London drivers think they have driven while over the alcohol limit in the past year, new research suggests.

A survey by the RAC found that just 74 percent of London motorists believe they have not been guilty of driving over the legal limit, meaning 26 percent may have done so, compared with 16 percent in the general population and 11 percent in rural areas.

In total, the RAC survey showed that around five million drivers across the U.K. believe they have got behind the wheel with an illegal quantity of alcohol in their system at least once in the past year.

The survey, which took in responses from 1,727 drivers, also found that men are more likely to risk drink driving than women, both straight after drinking and the morning after.

Beer Pint Drinking
A man drinks beer on February 7, 2014. Drink driving is still surprisingly common on British roads Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

It was also revealed that London had the second highest number of failed breathalyzer tests among all regions in 2016, with 6,244 offences, according to separate data obtained by Confused.com from the Met Police.

Josh Harris, director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, said: "These are shocking figures. Drink drivers destroy lives and inflict appalling suffering on families up and down the country.

"The current drink drive limit in the U.K. is far too high, and gives a false impression that it is safe to drink alcohol before getting behind the wheel. This limit must be lowered as a matter of urgency and cuts to road traffic policing reversed to increase enforcement and crack down on dangerous drink drivers."

The RAC research also revealed there is public support for a UK-wide reduction in the legal blood-alcohol limit to 50 milligrams per 100ml—as enforced in Scotland—with six in 10 (59 percent) of British motorists putting support behind 50mg or less becoming law.

As of 2017, the drink-drive law and breath test have been in force for 50 years, but the legal blood-alcohol limit in England and Wales has remained at 80mg per 100ml during the period. In the rest of Europe, with a few exceptions such as Malta, 50mg per 100ml or below is the legal limit.

Government statistics for Britain show that the amount of casualties from reported road accidents between 2012 and 2016—where one of the drivers or riders involved was impaired by alcohol—has remained static. In both years, 143 people lost their lives in such accidents, and similar numbers continued in the years in between, totalling 702 over the five years.

As the U.K. is in the midst of the Christmas party season, the RAC is highlighting the "morning after" issue in an attempt to make sure motorists are safe to drive the next day.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said in a statement: "Anyone who thinks they are likely to have sobered up enough to drive just because they went to bed for a few hours may just be about to ruin someone else's Christmas as well as their own.

"It is vital that everyone who has been drinking leaves sufficient time for their body to process the alcohol they have consumed. If you are having to think whether you are sober enough to drive then the answer is you probably aren't.

"The dangers of drink-driving are truly horrific and should never be underestimated. Never have the words 'it's better to be safe than sorry' been more appropriate.

"Apart from the obvious dangers of being involved in accidents when drink-driving, police forces will be actively targeting drink-drivers during December so anyone found to be over the limit risks losing their licence as well as a hefty fine."